Venus on the South Bank

October 20th 2007 was a good day for me photoing photoers, and I’ve just set aside thirty five photoers to stick up here. But, because of the lateness of the hour, that will take too long to sort out now, even given how much easier such photo-clutch displaying has now become. So here, in the meantime, is some Art that I photoed on that same expedition, in among photoing all those photoers:

The painting on the left is The Birth of Venus, complete with her strategically long, blond hair. But what is the one on the right? (Aside from not being quite finished.)

Closer up:

I see an angel and a Madonna. I wonder if googling will yield anything.

No luck. Lots of Madonnas, of the modern Italian-American and pop-singing sort, and lots of this famous painting. But nothing like the painting above. So, commenters?

Pop musicians who are (or were) also model railway enthusiasts

Anything Jools Holland can do …:

… Sir Rod Stewart can do better:

I first learned of this via Twitter, as a result of following comedian Simon Evans, who liked this.

The Telegraph dug up as many celebrity toy trainsters as it could find, as reported in this piece. The only ones who are not popular musicians are Peters Snow and Sellers, although even Sellers had a hit or two. For me, the big surprises were Johnny Cash and … Frank Sinatra. Sinatra, imagine it. Did the rest of the Rat Pack even know? If they had, I reckon they’d have expelled him. Or maybe killed and eaten him.

So, Rob, your sons are going to be pop stars. Well, perhaps not. I am unfamiliar with the details of this subculture, but it is my understanding that not all model railway enthusiasts are pop stars. Like many causal links, this one may not work if reversed. But the link between being keen on making music and keen on making toy train layouts might be stronger than random, I think.

Mariah says to eat crisps for Christmas

A feature, by which I mean a bug, of Growing old is that all the heartfelt love songs of earlier times are now recycled by their original performers to sell sofas, deodorants, food, etc..

All I Want For Christmas by Mariah Carey is one of my most favourite pop songs, long before sophisticates came around to realising how good it was. (Same with Abba. I loved them from the moment they won Eurovision, before even the Gays noticed them. With the greatest pop songs of a certain vintage, the rule was: Me, Gays, Girls, The Public.)

But now, it turns out that all Mariah Carey really wants for Christmas is …:

… a packet of potato crisps.

Personally I like potato crisps, hence my possession of this crisp packet. But, I despise almost all crisp advertising. What crisp advertising ought to say is: Yes, our crisps are probably bad for you if you scoff too many of them, but they taste terrific, even the plane old salt-flavoured ones. But oh no. Instead, they bribe celebs whose successes in life have been based on not scoffing crisps or similar products, to tell the rest of us to do this, by pretending that they do too, and thereby to imply that crisps are good for you. The more you scoff them, the thinner you’ll be and the better you’ll be at football, and you’ll be athletic enough to win an Olympic medal.

The thing is, though, that Mariah Carey has had serious difficulty staying slim, and she might actually be telling the truth, in now claiming to prefer crisps to the sort of boyfriend she could have when she was young and effortlessly slim and when the world was at her feet.

Photos of Denise Ho at the ASI

Earlier this evening I attended an event at which Denise Ho answered questions put to her by an ASI guy, about the unfolding situation in Hong Kong. I photoed her:

Very impressive.

Short summary. The protests continue, and the way for her side to win is to universalise the struggle, turning it from a merely local battle, which China is bound to win, into a global argument, which China is a lot less likely to win. Hence her presence in London (and many other spots around the world) to tell people about what’s happening in Hong Kong.

I heard another talk about Hong Kong on Monday that covered a lot of the same ground. My question then (which I thought rather than actually asked) was: What can we do to help? Answer, from Denise Ho this evening: a lot. Because “we” means everyone else in the world who wants to help.

Now thrive the scaffolders: Videoing Kent v Surrey

That expedition to Beckenham, to watch Kent and Surrey play cricket against each other was fun, what with all the cricket to be watched:

But after ruminating on the photos I took, I now find that one of the more interesting things that I saw and photoed was just off the playing area.

To be more precise, they were to be seen on the far right of the above photo. Here’s a crop from within the above photo that zooms (but only digitally) in on what I am referring to:

That thing that you see there is the sight screen, placed there to enable batsmen to see the balls more clearly as they propelled towards them by the bowlers. Don’t move near this thing when the bowler is bowling from this end. Sacrilege! Delay!

But now, please notice the bit of disembodied scaffolding sticking up above this sight screen, at the right hand end of the sight screen.

Happily, I realised at the time I was there (this does not always happen) that this is something I would be interested in. I took a much closer look:

On the left there, the back of the sight screen, and on the right, the object of my interest.

What is it doing?

This:

Another view of the same gizmology:

I think I spy there no less than three video cameras, which are, like the sight screen, directly behind the bowler as he comes in to bowl. And high enough above the action to see the batsman’s efforts to respond to the bowler’s efforts to see the batsman clearly, without the bowler getting in the way.

Here’s a still from the output of one of those cameras, on the day I was there, which I captured here:

If you watch some of that video, you will note that all the videoing, no matter which end the bowler is bowling from, is from the same end. Which explains why I was unable to find any trace of video cameras near the sight screen on the other side of the ground.

Whatev. Such videoing has absolutely transformed my enjoyment of county cricket. As I type this posting in for the first time, I also have on my computer screen a live feed from the Oval, of the final day of the return fixture between Surrey and Kent. Surrey are struggling, but not out of it yet. In the video capture above we see Sam Curran batting. He’s batter at the Oval now, and a lot depends on him.

It’s been fun watching these video feeds get slowly better, with more stationary cameras being added. The destination that all this is leading to is that all county cricket grounds will be smothered in video cameras (just like the rest of the world) and one guy in a van will be able to edit it all together to the point where you might as well be watching the Sky TV coverage of, say, a World Cup Semi-Final between India and New Zealand, which also happens to going on right now (but which I am not watching because I don’t have Sky). Wow. India, replying to NZ’s (surely) below par 239, are 5 for 2. Rohit and Kohli both gone! Make that 5 for 3!!! Rahul also gone. Cricket. Bloody hell.

But I digress. I’ll end the photos in this posting with a photo of the little tents from where the spoken commentary was done, on that day in Beckenham:

The guy in the blue jeans there is Surrey commentating legend Mark Church.

One of the great things about both video and radio feeds from cricket games these days is that when something sensational happens, you can immediately go there and listen to/watch all the drama, by shoving that line a bit backwards. You couldn’t do that with the old donkey powered radio sets of my youth.

As soon as I’m done here, I will be listening to Aggers and Co yelling with amazement about those early Indian wickets. (Well well, the yellow BBC line, for now anyway, refuses to move back from what is happening right now. Shame.)

Anyway, back to scaffolding. Do I have to insist on what a contribution to modern life scaffolding is now making? Well, I hereby do. And it’s not just for new buildings, or for prettying up existing buildings. Here we see a characteristic use of scaffolding, to prop up some new technology, while they are still working out exactly how to do everything. Where exactly should the kit be? How high? How easy does it need to be to fiddle about with. What is the best way to organised all The Wires!? Until you know such things, use scaffolding, and keep your options open.

See also: rock concerts in sports stadiums. Where would they be, without scaffolding? There’s plenty more to be said about scaffolding. For instance, I haven’t even mentioned, in this, how beautiful it can look. Functionalism in its purest and more elegant form.

Plus, I reckon that there is something a lot like scaffolding on the inside of those canvass hutches where Churchy and co did their radio chat.

Surrey sinking fast against Kent. Sam Curran: out. Also: shame. India now 24 for 4, with the last ball of the tenth over. Karthik out. Matt Henry now has three wickets. This time, for some reason, I was able to shove the line back and hear them describe it. Great catch, they’re saying. And I’ll be able to watch the replay of it very soon at the BBC website. (See the “Aggers” link above. No Aggers today, though.) Thought: This is a situation absolutely made for MS Dhoni.

LOL!!!!: Kent, needing a mere 120 to beat Surrey, 0 for 2 after just five balls. Morne Morkel x2.

However it all ends, this is turning into quite a fun day.

LATER:

The scaffolders were thoroughly upstaged, I fear, which they must be very used to.

The key moment, near the end, was the running out, by about an inch, of MS Dhoni for 50. NZ win by 18 runs. Tomorrow: England v Australia, to find out who plays NZ in the final on Sunday. (And Surrey lose.)

Jamie Hannah’s new video

Jamie Hannah is a friend of GodDaughter2, as a result of him having spent a year at the Royal College of Music, going from being a good countertenor to a rather better countertenor. But now he’s giving the pop star thing a go. Judging by his latest video, I reckon the plan just might work.

I’ve heard Jamie Hannah in action twice before, once live and once in the form of a recording. In terms of performing savvy and persistence and general attitude; he seemed to be going about it the right way, but the actual sounds he was making didn’t sound to me that distinctive. Any friend of GodDaughter2 is a friend of mine. But not having anything sufficiently positive to say about Jamie’s work, I kept quiet about it here.

As you can see, that has now changed: If this new video is anything to go by, Jamie is now making much more use his strength; which is his very distinctive countertenor voice.

And, although I know nothing of the technicalities of such things; the production side – the sheer sound of the musical backing and the general ambience – sounds to me like it has taken a big step in the right direction. Whatever he is now doing, I hope Jamie Hannah keeps at it.

Judging by a lot of the comments at YouTube, it would appear that a certain Boy George feels similarly.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

When Elvis met Tommy in Bermondsey

This afternoon I was in Bermondsey, seeing a man about a blog, and without doubt, the oddest photo I took in my Bermondsey wanderings today was this one, of a garage door:

Here is a closer up view of the writing at the bottom:

Click to get that a lot more legible.

Do you care about this? It made me smile, but I really do not care if it is true. If you do, and haven’t already acquainted yourself with this tale and made up your mind about it, then read this, which merely reports on the claim (made in 2008 by a mate of Tommy Steele’s), or this, which is more scornful, or this, which is very scornful indeed. Elvis did fleetingly visit Scotland, apparently, but was stuck at the airport. The most scornful of these reports is Scottish, assuming that I am correct in believing “Shields” to be in Scotland. Can’t have the damn Sassenachs steeling their thunder. Ho, ho.

Rather surprisingly, I only found one other photo featuring what I photoed today, here. But that could just reflect my inadequacy as an internet searcher.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

The performing horses of Warwick Castle: Nice legs – shame about the faces

Over the summer, a friend of mine was performing in a show at Warwick Castle about the Wars of the Roses. And early last August a gang of her friends and family went there to see this, me among them. It was a great show, albeit wall-to-wall Tudor propaganda, and a great day out.

Warwick Castle is quite a place, being one of Britain’s busiest visitor attractions. It’s No 9 on this list.

I of course took a ton of photos, and in particular I photoed the horses in this show, the crucial supporting actors, you might say. The stage was out of doors, of course, and long and thin, the audience on each side being invited to support each side in the wars. Long and thin meant that the horses had room to do lots of galloping.

None of the photos I took were ideal, but quite a few were okay, if okay means you get an idea of what this show was like:

The basic problem, I now realise, is that the horse heads were at the same level as the audience on the opposite side to my side. As Bruce the Real Photographer is fond of saying, when photoing people, you start by getting the background right. And I guess he’d say the same of horses. Well, this time, for these horses, I’m afraid I didn’t.

So it was a case of nice legs, shame about the faces. (That link is to a pop song from my youth, the chorus of which glued itself to my brain for ever. I particularly like the bit where they sing: “Shame about the boat race”.)

I recommend the show’s own Real Photographer, for better photos, potted biogs of the leading historic characters, and a little bit about the enterprise that did this show.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

An ideal Showboat

Recently I bought a CD set of Showboat, and yesterday I listened to it. Showboat is not really my kind of thing. When it comes to singing, I tend to prefer either Schubert or the Rolling Stones. I bought this Showboat to learn more about a lady called Janis Kelly. As you can see to the right there, she is one of the star singers in this recording.

Janis Kelly is something of a legend in the classical singing world. She is a fine singer in operas and music dramas of all kinds, and she sang the part of “Magnolia” in this performance of Showboat. She is also a much admired singing teacher, of the sort that singers she has taught spend the rest of their careers boasting that they were taught by, in their CVs and programme notes. And, Janis Kelly just happens to be GodDaughter2’s singing teacher at the Royal College of Music. (GD2’s graduation recital being further evidence, to my ears, and eyes, of Ms. Kelly’s teaching prowess.)

Janis Kelly sounded great on this recording, but what surprised me was how much I enjoyed the recording as a whole. I am used to hearing shows like Showboat performed in a style that is aimed at audiences who basically prefer pop music to classical or orchestral music, and which typically uses pop brashness and pop exuberance to cover for the small number of musicians being deployed. This version of Showboat, however, was “orchestrated”, by Robert Russell Bennett. The sleeve notes claim that this orchestration is based on the “original 1946 score”, and (I’m guessing) might well be closer to what its composer, Jerome Kern, would have wanted than was any performance that Kern himself ever heard. This is a performance which makes clear the direct line from opera to operetta, to the music of Kern. Under the baton of John Owen Edwards, the orchestra makes a far lovelier sound than the din I was expecting.

Mercifully, what has not been opera-ed, so to speak, is the singing style. Where an operatically-inclined manner is appropriate, that is what happens, as when Janis Kelly sings, for example. But when it comes to a character like Ellie, sung by Caroline O’Connor, we get the full Broadway closely-microphoned belting style, a style that someone like Franz Lehar, or for that matter Franz Schubert, could never have imagined.

Further proof of the excellence of the singing in this performance is that, in the best Broadway style, and even when the singing is rather operatic, you can hear every word they sing. Had this show been sung in the full-on operatic style throughout, to emphasise that this is directly descended from Verdi and Wagner and Puccini, that would never have happened. (I’m still grumbling to myself about a performance of Madam Butterfly at the English National Opera (where everything is sung in English), where most of the solo singers might as well have been singing in Japanese for all the sense I could make of what they were singing.)

My feeling about opera is that I tend not to like how it is sung (too wobbly and verbally incomprehensible (see above)), but I love the sound that it makes, in between the singing. When it comes to singing, I tend to prefer the Abba style to the noise made by the average opera singer. (Above average opera singers are a different matter entirely. (Today I listened to Act 1 of this, also on CD, and it sounded stupendous.)) But as for what accompanies that singing, give me the sound of an opera orchestra every time, over the brash, jazz-band-based instrumental belting, banging and twanging that you mostly get when listening to “music theatre”, provided only that the music is the kind that works orchestrally, which in Showboat it is.

This Showboat, then, is for me the ideal compromise, between Broadway and the opera house, being the best of both and the worst of neither. Not bad for a fiver, which is all Amazon charged me for it.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog